Athena’s Passport #18

2019 In Review


Athena's Passport: Your Entry Into Our World of Study Abroad
Partner News | January 15, 2020 | New series issue #18
Extra, Extra!
Rebecca Smietana Joins Global Learning Collective
Rebecca Smietana, former Senior Intercultural Programs Advisor at the University of Michigan, and former Study Abroad Coordinator at Saginaw Valley State University, has joined Athena and our partners in the Global Learning Collective as the Director of Partner Relations.
The Global Learning Collective, formed in 2018, is the first truly global consortium of international education organizations that share similar values and offers a personal connection with in-country host partners, while providing on-the-ground expertise and local access in each region of the world. The Collective’s five partners are USA-based Athena Study Abroad, Brazil-based Campus B, China-based Asia Institute, Germany-based CEPA, and EDU Africa, which has offices in four African countries.
Smietana, who is based in Memphis, Tenn., will be representing the entire Global Learning Collective in supporting and expanding partnerships at colleges and universities around the United States.
The Asia Institute, Campus B, CEPA, and EDU Africa all specialize in high-quality, local, and immersive customized, faculty-led study abroad programs, while Athena Study Abroad specializes in both short and long-term study abroad programs at host institutions around the world utilizing our unique hybrid exchange/provider program model.
Smietana most recently served as a Student Services and Admissions Officer at the Southern College of Optometry. Her international education experiences include programs in the Czech Republic, China and Taiwan, England, and Japan. Smietana holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Saginaw Valley State University and an MBA from the University of Michigan-Flint.
2019 in Review:
Award Nominations, New Elite Partnership Program,
Expanded Advisor Resources, and More!
2019 was a wonderful year, so we at Athena send a heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who made it such a great year! Thank you for welcoming us to your campuses and allowing us to share study abroad experiences with you and your students.

We had so many high points and memorable moments throughout the year- let’s take a look back and reflect together on a few!

Top 10: Sights to
Photograph in Paris

Paris is a city that has endless fascinating and beautiful sights/sites to photograph, and so recommending just 10 is not easy. But we thought we would give it a shot (no pun intended).
In this
Around the Field: Photography History Course
in Paris Dispels Assumptions, Deepens Cultural Understandings
Michael McCarthy, Director of Paris Institute for Creative Arts (PICA), a program that Athena co-founded with both McCarthy and Whittier College (CA), says that people think they know and understand photography because they see so many different photographs in so many different places every day. He quotes American documentary photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia, who once said, “photography is the foreign language everyone thinks they speak.”
Research Identifies Strengths of
First-Generation Latinx College Students
for Studying Abroad

By Dane S. Claussen, Ph.D., MBA
Manager of University Relations
Athena Study Abroad

“Assets-Based Learning Abroad: First-Generation Latinx College Students Leveraging and Increasing Community Cultural Wealth in Costa Rica,” by David Wick, Tasha Y. Willis, Jacqueline Rivera, Evelyn Lueker, and Maria Hernandez, was published in the November 2019 issue of Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad.
This article takes on stereotypes that Latinx students who are first-generation college students are unprepared to study abroad, and suggests steps that may be necessary to help such students study abroad who otherwise wouldn’t or couldn’t. They gathered longitudinal evidence from 25 students who experienced service activities and homestays in Costa Rica, 14 M.S.W. students in three six-week graduate internships and 11 B.A.S.W. students in a two-week undergraduate service learning course. Nearly all students were Mexican, Mexican-American, Chicana, or part Mexican; female; and reported having intermediate or advanced Spanish language skills. The authors are from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey; California State University, Los Angeles; and University of California, San Diego.
Because only one previous study could be found on first-generation, Latinx college students studying abroad in Latin America (despite Latinx students now composing about 40% of all US college students), the authors’ research literature review also drew on studies that focused on first-generation college students, first-generation students studying abroad, identity exploration, strengths-based critical pedagogy, and Latinx college students generally.
The researchers reported they did not intend to develop or test theory, but they gathered evidence structured by Yosso’s
Community Cultural Wealth (CCW) framework—which focuses on strengths, rather than weaknesses, that students bring with them to educational environments. As they write, “The model highlights six forms of cultural wealth of capital: a) aspirational, b) linguistic, c) familial, d) social, e) navigational, and f) resistant. From a CCW perspective, we expect that the value and benefits of study abroad may instead vary depending upon student identities and host cultures.”

Evidence was “collected one month after each program and six to nine months later as we intended to maximize contact with students for the research process itself and also as part of our high-intervention approach to stimulating their reflection,” the authors write.

“Researchers adapted focus group protocols and in-country journal prompts to meet the differing needs and realities of the undergraduate and graduate students. MSU students also participated in individual interviews at all three points in time.” The qualitative evidence was analyzed in multiple rounds of coding and they reported that “remarkably similar themes across all participants, despite the inherent cognitive differences between undergraduate and graduate levels of study,” they write.
The article reports “three key findings”: “First, students were able to leverage their linguistic and familial capital in meaningful ways to connect with
their hosts in this context. Additionally, the data present insights into how students drew upon not only their linguistic and familial capital but also their inherent aspirational and resistant capital while abroad. Finally, ways that students interacted with their forms of CCW appeared to deepen their bicultural identities, strengthen their resistance to injustice, and instill a strong desire to inspire other Latinx students to pursue international education experiences.” The authors write that their results are in “sharp contrast to unmet expectations and identity-challenging experiences of students of color in heritage destination” studies by other researchers.
This study is a good first step in research on Latinx, first-generation college students studying abroad and should generate many additional qualitative and/or quantitative studies. This study’s sample was small and homogenous (including being all social work students and probably all living in southern California). Future studies need to include more diverse students samples (particularly male students, students majoring in disciplines other than social work, and/or students living in other areas of the United States.) While increasing the number of first-generation students and the number of Latinx students studying abroad is critically important, and many will prefer to go to Spanish-speaking countries for various academic, professional and/or personal reasons, steps also must be taken to increase the likelihood that first-generation Latinx students also will study abroad in non-Spanish speaking countries and also be successful in those programs.

Program Highlight: Spain Programs – Seville

In the next few issues of Athena’s Passport, we will be taking you on a tour around some Spanish cities.

First Stop: Seville, Spain!

You know a song whose verses are chill, but explode in the refrain? Seville is like
that. It’s a city that has an incredible combination of that mellow Mediterranean vibe, with the trademark Spanish vitality. Seville has an inviting and even hypnotic energy that is focused on community, socializing and enjoying life. It doesn’t hurt that the weather and the culture are fantastic, too. The city has everything you’d want in a study abroad destination, without being overwhelming.
PROGRAM: After years of searching for a smaller, high quality Spain program, Athena was thrilled to find CLIC. With small class sizes, and top-notch quality, partnering with CLIC was an easy choice.
This program is not just for Spanish majors! In addition to Spanish language courses, students have the option to take electives in English or Spanish at the Universidad de Sevilla, but maintain a personalized home-base at CLIC for their language courses. The Universidad de Sevilla, founded in 1505, is one of the top-ranked universities in the country.
TERMS: Spring, Summer, Fall.


Spanish Language and Culture, Humanities, Social Sciences, Arts, and more.
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